Sometimes complex human questions become clearer when we go back to our roots – even our childhood roots. University of Chicago Laboratory School teacher and MacArthur Genius Vivian Paley addressed the universal human experience of feeling excluded after forty years of observing children in nursery school and kindergarten. Despite its unlikely source, Paley’s inclusion rule (and the title of her most popular book), “You can’t say you can’t play,” may be an important reflection for organizational leaders who have learned that hiring a more diverse workforce is only a baby step toward creating a culture of inclusion in which all individuals can flourish.
We aren’t advocating a return to preschool, or even the legislation of human interaction with a set of childhood “rules.” But there are important things to learn from the evolution of human nature – ideas and behaviors that have been hardwired into us since before our earliest sentient moments.
We all know the story. It was 1980 at the height of the Cold War. The United States hockey team, in an incredible feat known as the Miracle on Ice, beat the Soviet Union to claim the Olympic gold. For most, the fairytale ends there, the American team victorious.
But on the Soviet team’s flight back to Moscow, another story unfolded. The coach began to insult individual players and dole out unfair blame. A defenseman named Valeri Vasiliev furiously interrupted and, in a brave moment of protest, reprimanded the coach and demanded he take back his comments. The Soviet team went on to become the pre-eminent power in world hockey, virtually unbeatable for the next four years.
So what does this have to do with Books@Work?
It’s Friday! As usual, we’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to enjoy over the weekend.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative learning engineer Bror Saxberg make an emphatic case in the McKinsey Quarterly for prioritizing lifelong learning in the business world. With the rise of AI and robotics, they write, the complex cognitive and emotional skills that make us human are more crucial than ever.
Abigail Williams’ new book “The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home” explores the “history of sociable reading,” shedding light on a time when volumes of verse and prose were read aloud “in many homes as a familiar assortment of readable extracts to while away an afternoon or evening in company.” What’s the difference between reading alone and reading with others?
In the Harvard Business Review, novelist and advisor to technology entrepreneurs and investors Eliot Peper argues that business leaders should be reading science fiction – and shows us why “companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple have brought in science fiction writers as consultants.” What makes a genre that we so often associate with futuristic worlds or spaceships so useful to someone in the C-suite?
Happy Friday! We’ve scoured the web for thought-provoking articles and essays for you to enjoy during our first full weekend of summer.
The Beatles convinced us that “we get by with a little help from our friends” – but is there actual science to back that up? Over at the New York Times, Jane E. Brody reports on recent studies out of Harvard, Duke, Stanford and more that stress how critical social interaction is for our mental and physical health.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation on the importance of social interactions in the workplace at the International Conference & Exposition of the Association of Training and Development in Atlanta. Over four days, 10,000 attendees chose from 400 presentations on a broad array of topics.
In a session on culture, Joseph Grenny, author and co-founder of the social science research firm VitalSmarts, asserted simply: “The health of a relationship, team or organization is a function of the average time lag between identifying and discussing problems.”
We’ve all worked with someone who excels at finding all the things an organization does wrong. Maybe we’ve even found ourselves doing it too. Identifying problems is easy. Talking about them? Not so much.
Imagine yourself on an operating table. It’s a routine procedure, but you have to get it done. You choose the best doctor and the best hospital and you trust the system to deliver perfect care. It’s the last procedure of the day and the – very human – doctor is tired. But you’re comforted by the nurses and other healthcare professionals in the room: the system will protect you.
Or will it?
In a recent article for the New York Times, Charles Duhigg takes a close look at Project Aristotle, a Google initiative that sought the answer to one burning question: what makes a good team? As Duhigg explains – and employees everywhere know – modern worklife is a series of collaborations and interactions. Your ability to work on a team can make or break your success in an organization, while team productivity directly affects companies’ ability to deliver on their goals.
According to Duhigg, employees in Google’s People Analytics division sifted through decades worth of research on team productivity, while analyzing 180 teams throughout their organization.